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Thanksgiving for 2, 2012: The Bird is the Word

2012 November 19

So it’s that time of year again, the big Foodie Freakout (man, I hate that word. ‘Foodie,’ not ‘freakout.’ Not that freakouts are great, either, but the word itself… I digress). Thanksgiving. It’s supposed to be the Great American Food Holiday. So many memories, so many recipes, so much tradition, so much family.

Unless there’s not. Because there’s just two of you.

I would really love to eventually have a sizable collection of Thanksgiving for 2 recipes, tips and tricks available here at The Kitchenette. But since I’m not really up for making four or five Turkey Day options right this minute, I’m starting small and putting together a trio of posts for a traditional Thanksgiving menu scaled down for two (with leftovers, of course, because it wouldn’t be a traditional Thanksgiving without leftovers!) for this year — while planning ahead for more in the future. Hint, hint, want to see recipes for a Down Home Southern Thanksgiving in the future? Something Fancy and Newfangled? New England Themed? Hit me up in the comments!

And now let’s get on with it!

Since Mr. Kitchenette and I are in the midst of home improvement (in a home we can’t even live in yet) and planning a move and all the wonderful things that come with all of that, we’re not really positioned to travel for Thanksgiving this year. And since we will probably spend a big hunk of the holiday weekend building Ikea kitchen cabinets, we’re not really positioned to have a bunch of people over, either. But just because its the two of us doesn’t mean we have to skimp on tradition.

Here’s our menu:

The Kitchenette’s 2012 Traditional Thanksgiving

Cider-Glazed Turkey, with Bourbon Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Un-stuffed Stuffing
Green Bean Casserole
Uma’s Sweet Potato Balls
Gramm’s Cranberry Relish
Rolls or Biscuts
Wee Pumpkin Pie
Virginia Wine, in red and white

We actually had a Just the Two of Us Thanksgiving last year, too, but I fully admit we may have gone a little bit overboard. Okay, more than a little…. a whole turkey, sides made for a family of four, a dozen rolls. Yikes! Lesson learned! We like leftovers but that was insane. There is no reason to be digging hunks of last year’s turkey out of the back of your freezer in June, especially considering the wide variety of turkey and turkey-alternative options available for two (or a few) people.

2011 Overkill

Kitchenette Thanksgiving 2011: Overkill

Which brings me to my first installment of advice (to be followed by the first recipe of this series): just get a breast. They’re smaller, cheaper and cook faster. Trust me.

I can hear you dark meat/white meat-haters groaning from here. I know, I know, it’s too dry; dark meat is more flavorful, wah wah. Fine. you guys, go get some legs. Or legs and wings. They sell ’em, even if you have to ask. Either way, you don’t need a whole turkey. You will just end up wasting food.

There are also other, non-turkey options, which many turkey-haters would tell you are tastier to boot. Guinea hen, pheasant and even duck are probably more manageable for two people and very, very delicious. But I’m talking about a traditional Thanksgiving this year. And that means turkey.

The Kitchenette’s Traditional Thanksgiving Cider-Glazed Turkey Breast

This preparation will work with turkey breasts and can be modified for legs and wings (you will likely want to flip them during the cooking process and obviously won’t be stuffing them with anything) as well as Cornish game hens, guinea hens and probably pheasant though I haven’t tried that. Duck is a whole different ball of wax (delicious, delicious fat, actually), and you might want to go another way.

Ingredients
1 4-6 pound turkey breast (thawed, if previously frozen)
6 Tablespoons butter, room temperature, divided
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage, plus 2 whole sprigs
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus 2 whole sprigs
2 cups apple cider
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 rib celery diced celery, cut into chunks
2 small carrots, cut into chunks
1/2 medium onion, quartered
1/2 medium turnip, cut into chunks
1/2 firm, tart apple (I like Granny Smith or Honeycrisp)

Method
Thoroughly mix 4 Tablespoons of the butter with the chopped thyme and sage to make a compound butter.  Set aside (this compound butter can be made several days in advance and refrigerated but bring it back to room temperature before using).

Next, make the cider glaze: In a large skillet, boil the cider over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Add the vinegar, 1 Tablespoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring constantly until the butter is melted. Cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375.

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Take the compound butter and slide chunks under the skin of the turkey breast, pressing from the outside to spread out the butter as much as possible.

In a large roasting pan, scatter celery, onions, carrots and turnips. Add 1 cup water. Place a rack (flat is fine but V-shaped, if you have one, is great here) on top of the vegetables and then place the turkey breast on the rack. Rub the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter on the outside of the turkey and season the bird liberally with salt and pepper, inside and out. Place the thyme and sage sprigs and the apple inside the cavity (you may need to pull the rib cage open a bit; this will also help the breast stand up on the rack if you are not using a V-shaped rack).

Roast the turkey breast, uncovered, basting every 30 minutes with the cider glaze and drippings for 2 1/2 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registered 165 degrees (tent it loosely with foil if the skin browns too quickly; add water, 1/2 cup at a time, if the vegetables begin to scorch.).

Let turkey breast rest, tented loosely with foil for 15 minutes before carving.

 

If you are into the turkey-drippings gravy (and oh, I am) you can make it while¬† the turkey is resting…

 

The Kitchenette’s Cider-Glazed Turkey Gravy with Bourbon

The first time I made gravy with drippings from a cider-glazed bird, I ended up adding a crazy amount of salt and pepper to balance out the more-than-lingering sweetness of the glaze. That was before I had the epiphany of cutting it with bourbon first and adjusting with salt and pepper later. You can thank me whenever. You may want to also keep a little bit of bourbon and broth on hand — if the gravy gets too thick, I like to thin it with equal amounts of each, usually a couple Tablespoons at a time.

Ingredients

Pan with drippings and vegetables from The Kitchenette’s Traditional Thanksgiving Cider-Glazed Turkey Breast

2 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups chicken broth

1/3 cup bourbon (I like Wild Turkey for this, because it’s funny)

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Put the turkey-less roasting pan across two burners, both set to medium-high heat. Add the butter. When it has melted completely, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes.

Deglaze the pan with bourbon, scraping up bits off the bottom of the pan. Slowly add the chicken broth, continuing to stir until thickened, about 4 minutes.

Strain into a small saucepan with a lid if you want to keep warm on the stove during dinner or into whatever you’re serving the gravy in if not and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve warm.

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